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PAC directs CIID to grill Finance Ministry project officials

FILE PHOTO: PAC Nandala Mafabi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee- Central Government has asked the Criminal Investigations and the Intelligence Directorate (CIID) to interrogate officials heading different projects under the Ministry of Finance for abuse of office.

The committee chaired by Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi on Wednesday issued a reprimand to the project managers after they failed to turn up to respond to audit queries.

The MPs were furious by the snub from the project managers and the fact that none of the projects submitted any written responses to the queries indicated in the auditor general’s report for the FY 2017/2018.

The 15 projects under review by the committee are the Skills Development Project, Uganda Clean Cooking Supply Chain Expansion Project, Project for Financial Inclusion in Rural Areas (PROFIRA), Support to Macro Economic Management, U-Growth DANIDA Program, BELGO-Uganda Study and Consultancy Fund, Development of Industrial Parks and others.

The other projects include United States Agency Development Fund (USADF), Capitalisation of Institutions, Support to Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development, Support to Microfinance, Competitiveness Enterprise Development Project, FINMAP, Uganda Technical Support Programme I (TSP I) and Support to NAO. Some of the projects are 100 percent funded by government while others are co-funded by donors.

In July, PAC met with the Finance Ministry under Secretary Betty Kasimbazi and requested her to furnish the committee with individual audited accounts for each of the projects and responsible officials. This was after Kasimbazi informed MPs that the projects are audited in consolidation with the ministry’s accounts, an explanation that was rejected by the committee.

Despite submitting the audited accounts as requested, the ministry officials led by Diana Kabagambe, the Senior Assistant Secretary appeared without any responses to the Auditor General’s report.

Kabagambe explained that the project managers could not appear in time before the committee since they were engaged in a top management meeting at the ministry.

She also said that they did not have written responses to the audit report since the Auditor General did not raise any specific queries against the projects. But Nandala insisted that his committee needs explanations on the expenditure of funds allocated to the projects.

Mbarara Municipality MP Michael Tusiime dismissed claims by Kabagambe that there were no queries saying that the accounts of the projects have a lot of question marks.

Some of the queries example under the Uganda Technical Support Programme I (TSP I) include 72.9 million unaccounted funds with no sufficient documentation, 93.8 million spent in an incorrect procurement procedure, 17.9 million Shillings expenditure on other activities not related to the project and 25.4 million advanced to staff and others.

The Auditor-General also queries the poor absorption of the US 21.8m Dollars loan under the Skills Development Project in his June 2018 report. He noted that only 5m Dollars (23%) had used yet 50% of the project duration had been covered.

“This leaves the project management with barely 24 months to absorb the remaining balance of US Dollars 17,7 million of the loan amount. Consequently, Government is exposed to the risk of incurring commitment charges as well as a possibility of shoddy works arising from hurried implementation of pending activities,” said the Auditor General.

Nandala accused the officials of disrespect and demanded that the CIID office at parliament investigate their snubbing of the committee and report back by Friday. He also demanded the responses to the queries to be submitted tomorrow without fail.

Mafabi accused the officials for mishandling project funds under their care some of which he said is borrowed monies. He alleged that some ministry officials choose to request for kickbacks before they approve procurement while some even deposit the funds on fixed accounts to earn interest while the projects lag behind schedule.

He cited the example of the Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project where 33 billion Shillings out of 69 billion allocated remained unspent.

Maruzi County MP Maxwell Akora also expressed disappointment in the manner how the Finance Ministry has handled the committee proceedings. He said that they had taken the committee for granted and wasted their time.

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